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FOCUS: The help available for people suffering ‘fuel poverty’ this winter

FOCUS: The help available for people suffering ‘fuel poverty’ this winter

Thursday 28 October 2021

FOCUS: The help available for people suffering ‘fuel poverty’ this winter


In light of rocketing gas prices and significant oil price hikes, Express investigated what help is at hand for people in Guernsey suffering from fuel poverty.

A family or household is said to be in fuel poverty when they cannot reasonably pay their oil, gas, or electricity bills to heat their homes. The situation is exacerbated further in the winter months.

This year people in Guernsey are facing higher bills than in previous years, with the average price of gas going up by 16.9% and oil prices reaching a multi-year high.

“We’ve seen the wholesale fuel market increase significantly throughout 2021,” said Head of Sales & Marketing for Rubis, Nick Crolla.

“One of the key reasons has been the global rebound in demand for fuel, as Covid restrictions have been easing. Whilst the fuel shortage issues in the UK have not impacted the Channel Islands, unfortunately the global increase in prices does have an impact on our supply chain.”

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Pictured: “Though we cannot control the external global factors we have looked at what we can do to assist our customers and the wider community,” said Mr Crolla.

Similar issues for gas supply have led to an “inevitable” price hike which will cost some households £10-15 more per month.

There is help however, from the States of Guernsey and the companies that supply fuel to customers. 

“We understand that news of price increases for customers can cause concern,” said CEO of the Islands Energy Group, Jo Cox.

“We would like to remind our customers that they can sign up for our Priority Customer Care service if they would like to discuss any additional support that we are able to give them, including payment plans and ‘Comfort Checks’ for customers at home.”

IEG is responsible for Guernsey Gas and you can contact the PCC team on 724811.

Mr Crolla from Rubis said heating oil vouchers are being distributed to islanders through two outlets.

“From Wednesday [yesterday] £20,000 worth of heating oil vouchers will be available from the Salvation Army & Guernsey Welfare Service to distribute to those who need it most,” he said.

“Whilst these measures will not be able to help everyone, we are trying to keep a focus on helping those who need it most.”

 

Guernsey Electricity's Head of Customer Experience Steven Parks "would firstly recommend that customers ensure that energy is used wisely, taking into account efficiency measures around the home." You can find GEL’s energy saving tips HERE.

Additionally, the company suggests customers make sure they know their ‘low-rate electricity times’, or to speak to their Customer Accounts team if dealing with an unpayable bill. You can contact the team on 200700.

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Pictured: “If any of our customers are concerned about paying their bill or would like to confirm their low rate electricity times on our Economy-12 tariff, we urge them to please talk to our Customer Accounts team,” said Mr Parks from GEL.

In the run up to an increasingly expensive winter, that has seen inflation and the cost of living rise to new highs, the States has been in close contact with the island’s energy suppliers.

Most notably, following the massive rise in Gas Prices, IEG has been ensuring “they [SOG] are fully up to date on the situation and that they are able to offer support where they can.”

“We’ve done an awful lot of work in terms of when the situation first arose in terms of the gas price shocker,” said Deputy Lindsay de Sausmarez, the President of Environment & Infrastructure and the Vice President of Employment & Social Security.

“P&R and ESS in particular  have agreed in principle to provide financial assistance to people who may find themselves struggling with gas prices,” said Deputy Lindsay de Sausmarez.

“We will hopefully be able to provide the details of that support shortly.”

Deputy Lindsay De Sausmarez

Pictured: “We want to support people who may be struggling with higher gas bills as we come into the winter months,” said Deputy de Sausmarez.

She continued: “It’s very necessary to help people with their fuel bills, given the situation they find themselves in.

“However, it’s better if we can support them to be more energy efficient in the first place. Ultimately, we’ve got to run those two ideas on parallel tracks. We do need to be working towards making our homes, our workspaces, as thermally efficient as we can.”

Age Concern will soon be announcing similar support measures, and advice on their annual fuel fund alongside a maintenance fund for insulating people’s homes.

The ‘help’ Deputy de Sausmarez is alluding to will run in tandem with the Winter Fuel Allowance that is currently open for applications. It’s understood this support will not have been calculated with the latest gas price hike in mind, as the WFA matrix is calculated from June to June. Hence the need for a second support measure, the specifics of which have not been published yet.

It’s hoped the cumulative effect of all these support measures will reduce the amount of people in the island who could end up suffering from fuel poverty this winter.

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